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CNN executives might finally be catching up to an obvious truth: anchor Chris Cuomo needs to go.
The network indefinitely suspended Cuomo Tuesday evening, “pending further evaluation.” It shouldn’t take any further evaluation. He should be fired.
This has been clear since August, when a report from the New York attorney general’s office outlined how Cuomo helped his older brother, now-former governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, craft the public response to the harassment allegations that eventually lead to the elder Cuomo’s resignation. Chris Cuomo, the supposed journalist, was part of a group that had “ongoing and regular discussions about how to respond to the allegations publicly,” according to the report.
That right there should have been enough for him to lose his job at a news network — any news network! As an unnamed CNN staffer succinctly put it at the time, “the fact that Chris Cuomo wasn’t fired over his inappropriate conflict of interest in actively affecting a news story is not only irresponsible of CNN, but also a disgrace to journalism.”
Things only got worse for Cuomo and CNN this week. Interview transcripts and past text messages between him and his brother’s top advisors, made public in new documents released by the state attorney general’s office, show that Cuomo was even more involved in his brother’s response than most previously knew and he previously acknowledged.
Before Tuesday’s announced suspension, CNN had first promised a “thorough review” of the new information. So let’s review, shall we.
New documents show that he texted his brother’s top aide in early March as allegations against his brother were revealed saying, “Please let me help with the prep,” and used his sources to find information about his brother’s accusers. He also attempted to use his sources to learn more about a then-forthcoming story from journalist Ronan Farrow, which Cuomo defended as “completely business-as-usual.” It isn’t. Not for actual journalists. Nothing about this is business as usual.
“I would — when asked, I would reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out,” Cuomo said in his testimony to investigators.
Compare that to what he told viewers a few months ago. “I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation,” Cuomo said on-air in August. That statement isn’t looking very truthful now, is it?
CNN’s review should be over faster than it took us to write this editorial. It takes a lot to shock us these days, but it’s actually shocking that Cuomo appeared on the air earlier this week after the most recent revelations
In an interview with PBS, Jane Kirtley, the director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota, urged CNN to address this situation quickly.
“You can’t act like this is not happening. You’re a news organization,” Kirtley said.
As Washington Post political reporter David Weigel tweeted Tuesday, “If some news channel intern did what Chris Cuomo did they’d have been fired one second after these docs were published.”
Cuomo has crossed so many journalistic lines that he and the word “journalism” hardly belong in the same sentence. CNN should completely cut ties with its wayward anchor, or his continued presence will only drag down the actual journalists at the network with him, and reflect poorly on an entire profession that has a hard enough time maintaining the public’s trust as it is.